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Former President Valdas Adamkus Elected Again in Lithuania - 2004-06-28

Lithuania's former leader Valdas Adamkus won re-election by a slim margin in Sunday's voting, which took place in the midst of a political scandal that has engulfed the Baltic country for months. The outcome is a setback for another former president who is at the heart of the scandal.

Valdas Adamkus was re-elected president with just over 52 percent of the vote, according to figures released by Lithuania's election commission.

The 77-year-old U.S. émigré managed to prevail over his opponent, former Prime Minister Kazimira Prunskiene.

Mr. Adkamkus lived in the United States for many years before returning home to lead Lithuania from 1998 until early last year, when he lost a bid for re-election to Rolando Paksas in a surprise upset victory. He is credited with helping put the small Baltic nation on a path to integration with the rest of Europe as it struggled to overcome a half-century of rule by the Soviet Union, which ended when Lithuania regained its independence in 1991.

His opponent Ms. Prunskiene had the backing of former president Paksas, who was impeached and removed from office by parliament in April after he was found to have links with Russian underworld figures.

The scandal surrounding the impeached leader deepened last week when anti-corruption police raided the offices of several political parties who backed Mr. Adamkus.

Critics denounced the raids as an attempt to influence the election, as the head of the police unit was known to be an ally of the ousted former president.

Earlier this year Lithuania joined both the NATO military alliance and the European Union, landmark events that were overshadowed by the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Paksas.

After the results from Sunday's vote were in, Mr. Adamkus called for unity and promised to put Lithuania "back on track" in the wake of the recent political turmoil.

"We are coming back to the international community to prove that we are good partners," Mr. Adamkus told reporters at his campaign headquarters in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.